- CPEC plays an important part in alliance
Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa met with China’s defence minister and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to further enhance and solidify cooperation between the armies of the two nations that have remained close allies for decades. This is a significant development considering the recent volatility in regional security due to the standoff over Ladakh between China and India. Pakistan relies on China’s support in many international forums, such as the FATF, to counter India’s anti-Pakistan propaganda. Apart from the understanding on the security front and diplomatic support, China is also heavily financially invested in Pakistan through the Pak-China Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is a central component of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The CPEC’s timely completion and success, much of which depends on the efficiency of the government of Pakistan, weigh heavily on ties between the two countries.
Unfortunately, under the PTI government, many of CPEC’s main projects are behind schedule, struggling to meet even revised deadlines at the current pace of work. The port city of Gwadar, considered the ‘crown jewel’ of CPEC, is one such example where practically all schemes are facing delays. Although the Joint Working Group (JWG) on Gwadar, that includes representatives from both countries, have decided to expedite work at their recent meeting, the Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC), which is the highest decision making body of CPEC, will take up the issue of slow progress in Gwadar at its meeting next month. However, it seems that the JCC will be presented with the same underwhelming and unsatisfactory progress report that it saw in its last meeting. With little to no progress with regards to work on the dredging of the berth area and the channels at the port to ensure safety of vessels and on building a more reliable telecommunications network, deadlines will probably have to be extended yet again as necessary work cannot be carried out in the absence of these support services. Prime Minister Imran Khan has stated on many occasions that his government is committed to making CPEC a success, but the on-ground situation signals a palpable indifference towards the project and just sheer incompetence. There is a need to bring all CPEC projects back to their original or revised timelines so that a crucial and important alliance remains intact and healthy.